The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae. Each of these vertebrae are held together by ligaments. There are also many small muscles close to the spine and larger muscles that can be felt through the skin that hold the spine together. In the neck if any of the ligaments or muscles are pulled beyond their limits or torn a neck strain results.
Cervical neck strains are quite common in sports and also car accidents. They usually occur when a force is placed on the head resulting in forced or excessive neck motion.
Symptoms of Cervical neck strains
• There will be immediate pain in the neck
• If the strain has occurred in the larger muscles pain may be localized to one area
• There will be increased pain with certain movements of the neck
• Due to pain in the neck there may be spasm in the involved or surrounding muscles
• There can be neurological involvement ie)spinal nerve compression
• May be dizziness, difficulty sleeping
Diagnosis and treatment
Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose this condition. If there has been a severe traumatic injury to the neck x-rays may be required to rule out the possibility of fractures. Initially physiotherapy management of this condition would involve reducing pain and providing support and rest to the neck. This may involve wearing of a soft collar, electrotherapeutic modalities, ice, heat, gentle soft tissue techniques and gentle range of motion exercises. As the pain settles treatment will become more vigorous. Your therapist may also give you exercises to strengthen the neck muscles and improve your posture. Your therapist will also guide you in your return to sport.